The New Cruise: Unusual destinations you can now visit by cruise

Fifty years ago if you went on a cruise there was every likelihood the Hawaiian shirt wearing Entertainments Officer would bully you into playing shuffleboard - whatever that is - on the deck and every meal would begin with an exotic prawn cocktail.  The similarities between this kind of cruise and the cruises of today pretty much finish on there being a big white boat involved.  But far beyond the differences in the life on board are the differences in destinations you can cruise to.  

These days the cruising menu goes as far beyond the Caribbean as it does beyond a seafood buffet - all the way to exciting destinations you can only reach via boat or helicopter. 

Here are a selection of some unusual destinations you can now reach by cruise:

Wildlife and The Wonder of Nature

Even if you never thought of yourself as a cruise ship passenger, a cruise is one of the few ways to see do-before-you-die destination the Galapagos. The snorkelling and diving is supposed to be magical, and the island excursions involve things like sea kayaking amongst sea lion colonies, rare birdwatching in the black volcanic interior or ticking more of the 1,200 or more endemic species of plants and animals off your list.  Only a very small number of people are able to visit the Galapagos each year to minimise the environmental impact, and staying on a cruise ship is actually one of best options environmentally as well.  

Antarctica is another destination that cruising to is one of the few ways of visiting.  Round the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsular are the most easily accessible routes.  Passing though places with historic names such as the Beagle Channel and Drake Passage, Antarctic cruisers are given the opportunity to go on zodiac outings to walk on the pebbly beaches of the Antarctic Peninsular, where in the summer months chicks are hatching and seals are calving, as well as get out on the ice itself.  Astronomy and whale watching are the local speciality cruise options. 

Some destinations, Norway and Alaska for example, are at their most picturesque when seen from the water.  Norway's western coast is particularly rewarding and there are lots and lots of itineraries to choose from so it's a good choice if you're looking for something different but not something that's going to be a pain to book.  Most cruises depart from Bergen, of the colourfully painted, centuries old wooden buildings, just above the spectacular Hardangerfjord and the almost magical Folgefonna Glacier. A more unusual, and possibly even more spectacular Norwegian cruising destination is Spitzbergen, one of the Svalbard Islands, only 600 miles from the North Pole. Growing with large icebergs which crash off beautiful glaciers, you can cruise here during the summer when there is plenty of light to spot animals by - most specially polar bears, but also reindeer, whales, seals, arctic foxes and many kinds of birds.  

Norway isn't the only place with fjords to take your breath away, and Antarctica isn't the only destination you can travel to where you can see great hunks of ice slip from glaciers and thunder into the ocean.  Cruising off Patagonia's coast is another way to experience this kind of scenery, as well as visiting Tierra Del Fuego, whale watching off Cape Horn, and passing though the notorious Strait of Magellan. Land excursion options from a Patagonian cruise can include anything from horse riding, rock climbing, white water rafting, fly fishing, visiting penguin rookeries or sea kayaking to the usual hikes and trips to local wildlife attractions or interesting towns.  

If those options all sound a bit chilly for your liking, there are also cruises along Namibia's Skeleton Coast where you can see the desert meet the sea, out of Cape Town, for the wine and wildlife and Mozambique for access to the Zambezi.

Alternative Island Paradises

If that still doesn't sound warm enough for you and you were hoping for something more along the lines of what you saw on 'The Love Boat', but more original, then the five French influenced islands of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean are another under explored cruising destination.  Cruisers here are mostly French, and they say it's got all the class of the South of France with all the tropical benefits of the Caribbean.  Sugar cane plantations - grown to make the rum - hide lush jungles complete with hidden waterfalls and there's acres of beautiful, empty beach to snorkel off.  

The Society Islands in French Polynesia are the place you're probably travelling to in your day dreams about prefect white sandy paradises - even if you haven't heard of them they're still probably what you're imagining.  Bora Bora is the one with the huts standing in the perfectly arced aquamarine lagoon with the lush sided volcano looming over them, and Tahiti is the one with the black pearls and hammocks swinging between palm trees, and most Society Island cruises visit both.  Tahiti and Bora Bora are known for being expensive places to get to so this is another example of cruising being a relatively thrifty, as well as unusual, travel option.  

                                    Cultural Cruises 

Beaches used to be an essential element of the cruise, but these days there are all sorts of destinations accessible by cruise ship.  The Panama Canal is a particularly unique place to experience. It's a historic, and manages to be industrial yet also jungle fringed as it slices through South America.  The canal itself is actually traversed in a day or two, and there are all sorts of options for what you do before and after.  P&O has a trip that takes in the ancient sights of the Mayan Riviera before coming out the other side of the Panama Canal and hoping round the Caribbean, which is an excellent way to see a lot of varied ports in a short time. 

The Black Sea has yet to become a hugely popular cruising destination, but it's probably just a matter of time, and once that happens some of the uniqueness of it will be eroded.  Not many people are aware of the golden quality of the blond beaches and the local cuisine, or of the graceful architecture and sophisticated nature of the old cities along its coast – most people just think it's for history buffs.  Most Black Sea cruise begin in Istanbul then travel though Georgia, visit Odessa in the Ukraine for the architecture, and Yalta for the military history, then pass Sochi in Russia and on to Varna, for the beaches, and Nessebur in Bulgaria because of its beautifully cobbled medieval centre.  The Adriatic is another destination that's not as well travelled as it maybe should be.  Most Adriatic cruises involve shorter sea hops and more time spent on land in Albania, Croatia and Western Italy.  

For help choosing your ideal cruise get in touch with one of WR's Cruising Experts.

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